A friend once asked me, “Do you read Anne Rice?” To which I replied (flippantly), “Do I look like a lonely housewife or a Goth-wannabe to you?” Author Anne Rice is a writer of fiction known for her novels about Euro trash vampires who seduces lonely women and makes all their fantasies come true. Or some such nonsense. The point is, Rice writes like a lonely housewife eager for some fancy-schmancy “mysterious lover” (re: European, trashy, and of course speaks with an accent) to swoop down from the sky (preferably at night) and take them to a magical place where they can have great sex for all of eternity.
Or some such nonsense.
So when “Queen of the Damned,” a movie based on Rice’s novel, “The Vampire Chronicles,” came out I could have cared less. I like vampire movies but I’ve had my fill of Euro trash vampires (Carpenter’s “Vampires” and “Dracula 2000” immediately comes to mind), and didn’t feel the need to delve into yet another one. If they’re all the same, what’s the point?
“Damned” stars Stuart Townsend as Lestat, a French vampire from the 18th century (I think) who wakes up one day and decides he wants to be a rock star. You see, Lestat doesn’t like that he has to hide in the shadows and suck the blood of innocent people in the darkness; he wants to be a star, to be adored, and most of all, to be out in the open sucking the blood of innocent people in public. Hey, that’s just the kind of fellow he is. Lestat gets his wish and becomes the biggest thing since sliced bread, but that only ticks off the rest of the vampire nation, who takes Lestat’s challenge of “Come out come out wherever you are” as an invitation to a royal rumble on Lestat’s big concert out in Death Valley, California.
Among the throng of vampires making an appearance at said concert is Marius (Vincent Perez), the Euro trash vampire who “turned” Lestat (that is, make him a vampire), and Akasha (the late Aaliyah), who is “the mother of all vampires” (that is, she’s the one who turned them all). And every now and then a girl name Jesse (Marguerite Moreau) shows up to go all rubbery and dreamy around the handsome but awfully pale Lestat.
“Queen of the Damned” has one very annoying aspect — the special effects. Director Michael Rymer uses a “blurring” effect to show the vampires’ powers. When the vampires move or fly or do anything super-like, they literally leave a blurring effect behind them. This was interesting at first, but became tiresome and cheesy, especially during the rumble at the desert, when the whole screen seemed filled with blurring vampires doing, well, blurring things.
The whole point of “Damned,” and other Anne Rice creations, is to put the readers (re: the lonely housewives and Goth-wannabes previously mentioned) into the role of the weak and willing Jesse. It’s rather pathetic how the Jesse character is conceived and executed. She is supposed to be intelligent, but besides one scene where she cracks one of Lestat’s song lyrics, Jesse walks around dazed and longing to be turned into a vampire by the brooding Lestat. Obviously Anne Rice’s diehard readers are supposed to picture themselves in Jesse’s role — willing and able and ready to become the “lover” of Lestat, he of Euro trash descendent and “sexy” foreign accent. Why in the world would women want to fall in love with bloodsucker Lestat? Well, despite the fact that he kills people at random and preys on innocent girls, he “ain’t all that bad of a guy.” Riiiiight.
Besides the movie’s silly pedigree, “Queen of the Damned” is actually pretty good for the rest of us. Pop singer Aaliyah gives a terrific performance as Queen Akasha, an ancient queen who slinks like a snake when she moves and hisses like one when she talks, and apparently has the power of a god. Townsend is also good as Lestat, but I’ve seen this character so many times it’s not even good for a laugh anymore.
The humans, on the other hand, are laughably bad. Jesse is a pathetic shell of a character, and so is David (Paul McGann), the ringleader of a band of humans who knows about the vampires, but doesn’t do anything about it. What is their point for being in this film? Well, I know Jesse’s reason, but David’s? I suppose David is the “boring husband” who doesn’t pay attention to his wife, thus forcing her to turn to Anne Rice trash like this.
“Queen of the Damned” also features some great music by alt-rock band “Korn,” who is all over the soundtrack. On the whole, “Damned” is a good film, but I couldn’t tell you if it was faithful to Rice’s novel or not, since the closest I’ve been to anything involving Rice, I was eating it out of a bowl.
Michael Rymer (director) / Scott Abbott, Michael Petroni (screenplay)
CAST: Stuart Townsend …. Lestat
Marguerite Moreau …. Jesse Reeves
Aaliyah …. Queen Akasha
Vincent Perez …. Marius
Paul McGann …. David Talbot
Lena Olin …. Maharet